Nov 11, 2020
New heirloom apple discovery pack showcases eco-friendly packaging

A network of Eco-certified orchards in the Northeast is taking their commitment to environmentally progressive practices to a new level with the introduction of an innovative eco-friendly apple package, just in time for the holidays.

The new package was developed over many months by designer Diane Rast and nonprofit marketing organization Red Tomato. Rast researched the latest new options available here and in Europe, before settling on a longtime, family-owned packaging company in Massachusetts for the final product. They worked closely with apple growers over the summer, testing cardboard strength, refining the box size, and creating the final look.

“We went back to the drawing board many times to find the right combination of sustainable materials, strength, size, and visibility to showcase the values and the high-quality fruit represented by the Eco-certified program,” says Rast. “We couldn’t be more proud of the final product.”

In addition to introducing consumers to a new generation of eco-friendly packaging, the discovery pack also features an assortment of heirloom apple varieties, with recipes, variety descriptions and resources included in the pack and linked via QR code.  On-line baking classes and other activities are also in the works.

Scott Farms in Dummerston, Vermont, is one of the orchards supplying apples for the new pack.  Scott Farm General Manager Simon Renault first posed the idea in a conversation with Red Tomato last winter, and their staff has enthusiastically embraced the design and launch of the new product. “We are so happy to be working with Red Tomato to launch this Heirloom Discovery Pack,” notes Renault. “I can’t think of a better way to invite more people to discover our beautiful and delicious heirloom apples than this creative box.”

The factory where the boxes are made and printed is a 185-year-old independent, family-owned paper manufacturer based in a small town in New England. Their commitment includes zero-waste discharge and carefully-sourced materials. “Most of our plastic packaging must be produced and shipped from China, so we’re especially happy to be able to support a business in our own region,” says Rast.

The paper is 100% recyclable corrugated suitable for common community recycling programs, and meets rigorous standards to receive Certified Sourcing seal from the globally-recognized Sustainable Forestry Initiative. The designs are printed with Eekoflex inks that are water based, derived from paper residue and plant based materials whenever possible, with little to no volatile organic compounds (VOCs), minimal hazardous materials, and no heavy metals. With all of those benefits, the box still delivers durability and ease of assembly and packing for the orchard, and is appealing and convenient for customers.

A shift toward more sustainable packaging and away from single-use plastic is gaining traction in the produce world, but has been slowed by consumer desire for plastic during the pandemic.  The reasons are complex: plastic limits handling and protects produce from damage, while allowing customers to see the product. Retailers have packaging requirements based on customer and handling needs, and farmers must meet those requirements to stay competitive. Packaging that meets all those needs and is also environmentally responsible friendly usually means higher costs and extra labor to assemble and pack. To bring their new pack to market, Red Tomato and the orchards are sharing some of the cost, and counting on consumers to see the added value and support it with purchases.

All of the apples in the new pack are from Eco-certified orchards that use bio-intensive practices to support pollinator health, minimize risk to humans and wildlife, and nurture a healthy environment. The Eco program currently certifies 12 northeast orchards, including Heirloom Discovery partners Scott Farm, Dummerston, Vermont, and Fishkill Farms, Hopewell Junction, New York.

The Heirloom Discovery Pack is available through Scott Farm, Fishkill Farms, Red Tomato and in select Whole Foods stores across the Northeast. The Eco Apple program plans to roll out more eco-friendly packaging in 2021.

To follow Eco Apple on social media, visit Red Tomato’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RedTomatoProduce and Instagram at @redtomatoproduce, and on the web at www.redtomato.org.

The Eco Apple program is a third party growing and certification program, a partnership between farmers and science advisors to advance the most progressive and environmentally responsible growing practices for tree fruit in the Northeast. Orchards are certified annually by the IPM Institute of North America, based on a rigorous protocol that is updated each year to incorporate current research and best practices. Begun with six orchards on 400 acres, the program has certified 30 orchards and sold over $25 million in certified fruit since 2005.

Red Tomato is a nonprofit on a mission to change the food system for the better. They work with farmers, distributors and grocers to bring the freshest locally and regionally grown fruits and vegetables to people where they shop and eat every day. Based in Rhode Island, Red Tomato develops marketing, education, programs and partnerships to build a more sustainable food system and a better future for the Northeast region.

 




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